NASCAR means big bucks for local economy

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif.

Some saved money for the big event rolling in to Sonoma County, where 100,000 people will pack Infineon Raceway over the weekend for the Toyota Savemart 350, scheduled to start on Sunday.

Beyond the competition, there's a subplot: pundits view NASCAR as an indicator of the economy at large.

Lacey Williams follows NASCAR from event to event, selling burgers and burritos. When Williams says she's even with her sales last year, she means down from years before, but if the economy were really hurting, people like John Forester probably wouldn't have the cash to camp out all weekend.

"It's about $1,400 for four spots," Forester said.

In a sport where tires, alone, cost $20,000 per vehicle, some corporate sponsors have had enough. This week, the energy drink company Red Bull announced it will leave NASCAR at the end of the season.

"It's challenging for everybody out here," said NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. "Tickets for major league baseball is down. Tickets for football are down."

But none of that money talk really matters to the die-hard NASCAR fans, and if that's what they want, that's what they'll get over the weekend.

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